Expressed sequence tags (ESTs) with 300 to 500 base gene fragments, represent about only 10 to 30% of the average cDNA. cDNA is a laboratory synthesized DNA that contains only exons in their fragment. These allow the genetic researchers to limit their research to only information containing gene fragments.
Patenting of gene fragments has sparked controversy. This is because researchers feel that allowing many patents on gene fragments of same genome adds up to costs to the researcher who is interested in examining the whole genome. The researcher will not only have to pay to each patent holder in order to get an opportunity to study each gene fragment, the researcher will also have to pay the people he has hired to study different patented genes and determine which genes are applicable for his research.
Variation in DNA sequences when a single nucleotide in the gene is altered is known as single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs). For instance, SNP might alter a DNA sequence GATCAATA to GAACAATA. Along the human genome, SNPs occur after every 100 to 1000 bases. They can occur in both coding part of the gene as well as non-coding part of the gene. Normally, SNPs have no affect on function of cells, but researchers believe that some SNPs can make people more likely to contract a disease or affect their response to a drug.
Difference in genomic sequences influences how humans respond to different diseases, environmental dangers like that of viruses, bacteria, chemicals and toxins and drug therapies. These variations make SNPs of great importance for making researches in field of biomedical and for developing different pharmaceutical products. Researchers believe that SNPs will help them identify the affects of different genes that contribute towards complicated diseases like diabetes, cancer and mental illness. In conventional ways of hunting genes, association between genes and diseases is difficult to make because an altered gene makes a very small contribution towards the disease. U.K Wellcome Trust philanthropy and ten big pharmaceutical companies in 1999, established a non-profit organization which would find about 300,000 common SNPs. The foundation then planned to patent all the SNPs found so that they could prevent others from patenting the same information. The information on SNPs found by the consortium is freely available to researchers.
Production of human embryos or cloning embryos for use in research is known as 'embryo cloning'. This process clones human embryos in laboratory so that stem cells can be harvested from them and used to study human diseases and development. Stem cells are of great potential to researchers because they can be used to generate any type of specialized cell in the body.
Genetically modified organisms and cell lines are patentable material. Patents for cell lines from monkeys and other organisms have already been issued. Thus, based on previous court rulings, embryonic stem cells are patentable. Many controversies have developed regarding the patentability of human embryonic stem cells. The major controversy is that patents for human cell lines and cloning violate the principle of owning human beings. In the US, patents are granted according to a set technical criterion. Ethical issues have not yet influenced this process but it is yet to be seen how stem cell debate change this.
Various research groups are patenting